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Prevalence of Gambling and Problem Gambling

This study examined the prevalence of gambling and problem gambling among adolescents ages 13 to 17 in Oregon. Seventy-five percent of the 997

respondents surveyed reported gambling at least once in their lives and 66% reported gambling last year suggesting that between 140,777 to 154,185 adolescents gambled in the last 12 months preceding this study.

As with prevalence studies done in other states, this study found that boys and older adolescents were significantly more likely to gamble than girls and younger adolescents (Volberg, 1993; Winters et al., 1993a; Westphal et al., 1998).

The Oregon Lottery is fairly popular among 13 to 17 year-olds; approximately 39% have played at least once in their life, and 30% reported playing last year. According to these estimates, between 60,333 and 73,740 adolescents ages 13 to 17 played the lottery last year. At least 50% of the young lottery players obtain the tickets from family members, and 35% report buying them illegally, primarily at grocery stores and convenience stores. These prevalence rates for lottery playing are consistent with national estimates which indicate that the national average is approximately 30% (Shaffer et al., 1997).

Gambling in casinos is also fairly popular, though less so than playing the lottery. Approximately 19% of the respondents reported gambling in a casino at least once in their lives, and 12%, or an estimated 22,346 to 31,284, reported gambling in a casino last year. Approximately half of those who gambled in casinos reporting doing so outside of Oregon. Whether these rates are considered significant, or problematic, is a matter of interpretation. National estimates suggest that approximately 12% of adolescents nationwide have past-year rates of gambling in a casino (Shaffer et al., 1997).

There are many other forms of gambling that Oregon adolescents participated in besides lottery and casino gambling. The most popular activities included purchasing raffle tickets (41%), betting on sports with friends or relatives (32%), playing cards (31%) and betting on games of skill, such as pool or bowling, (25%). As with lottery playing and gambling in casinos, these rates are right in line with national averages which range from 31% for sports gambling to 40% for card playing (Shaffer et al., 1997).

Just as other studies have found (Govoni, Rupcich and Frisch, 1996; Wallish, 1995; Winters et al., 1993), the youth in this survey were significantly more likely to gamble and were also more likely to begin gambling in grade school if one or both of their parents gamble. In fact, not only was grade of onset and parental gambling related to the probability of gambling, but both appeared to be associated with the development of problem gambling.

The prevalence of level 2 and level 3 gambling among Oregon youth appears to be lower than that of other states which used similar methods to estimate problem gambling. Using the broad method, the rate of level 2 gambling is estimated at 11.2% and the rate of level 3 gambling is estimated at 4.1%. These rates appear to be slightly lower than rates of the few other states that have recently conducted studies using similar techniques for estimating problem gambling including Minnesota, and Louisiana. Oregon's rate of level 3 gambling is similar to Washington States' rate, which is 3%.

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